Shiga History 2009

Chronology of Shiga Prefecture’s news bits for January-December 2009. Compiled by Philbert Ono.

Toyosato Elementary School

Former Toyosato Elementary School renovated.

March 1, 2009: Hikone Prince Hotel is renamed Hikone View Hotel (彦根ビューホテル) upon the change of the hotel ownership from Prince Hotels to a Tokyo-based company called Study, Co., Ltd. The hotel is now part of the Itoen Hotel Group.

March 2009: The six northern Shiga towns of Torahime, Kohoku, Takatsuki, Kinomoto, Yogo, and Nishi-Azai (虎姫、湖北、高月、木之本、余呉、西浅井) took steps to merge with the city of Nagahama on Jan. 1, 2010. The proposed merger was approved by the prefectural government.

Mar. 4, 2009: Caffee (キャッフィー), the mascot character used for Sports Recreation Shiga 2008, was sworn in by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko as one of Shiga’s official mascots, especially for sports events.
March: The construction of the new Maibara Station is pretty much complete with the opening of the east-west corridor on Mar. 21st.

Mar. 30, 2009: The prefectural government announces that they found at least 44 suspected cases of slush funds or suspicious accounting created for illicit purposes by prefectural government departments and employees. The alleged backdoor money (called uragane 裏金) totaled at least 6.9 million yen.

Mar. 31, 2009: In a rare turnabout of policy, the Construction and Transport Ministry announced that it would freeze construction of Daidogawa Dam (大戸川ダム) in Otsu. The decision was made in consideration of opposition to the dam by the governors of Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka and Mie prefectures. The ministry had stated that the dam was needed to prevent any great flood that may occur. The affected municipalities (Otsu and Uji in Kyoto) and residents, however, were in favor of the dam.

April 2009: The Shiga Lakestars pro basketball team in the bj-league ends their debut season in 5th place with a record of 19 wins and 33 losses.

May 4, 2009: The Nyu Chawan Matsuri festival is held in Yogo for the first time in six years.

May 20, 2009: Shiga’s first case of swine flu (H1N1) is confirmed. A 23-year-old male student at the Biwako-Kusatsu campus of Ritsumeikan University is the first patient in Shiga. His symptoms are not serious and he was hospitalized. The news hits the local tourism industry very hard as school trips to Shiga are canceled. By late Sept. 2009, well over 2,000 people, mainly children, are infected in Shiga.

May 30, 2009: At a total cost of 650 million yen, the old Toyosato Elementary School is completely renovated and reopened to the public with an exhibition room, local public library, children’s room, and offices of the local board of education. The old building was repainted, reinforced against earthquakes, installed with an elevator, and preserved as much as possible. The second floor with classrooms is preserved as it was originally.

June 7, 2009: Hikone’s official mascot, Hiko-nyan, takes his first overseas trip to Hawai’i to appear in the Pan-Pacific Festival parade held along Kalakaua Ave. in Waikiki.

July 1, 2009: Smoking is banned in and around all major train stations in Otsu.

Aug. 24, 2009: Twelve-year-old Murakami Koji (村川康嗣) dies due to injuries from judo practice at Hatasho Junior High School in Aisho on July 29. Although the judo instructor was found to be at fault, he was not held personally liable for the death of the boy. The boy’s mother unsuccessfully sought damages from the instructor, although the town was held liable and was ordered to pay damage by the court.

Sept. 7, 2009: Kato Tokiko, a famous singer best known for her 1971 recording of Biwako Shuko no Uta, is appointed as a Shiga Hometown Ambassador (Shiga Furusato Taishi) by Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko.

Sept. 12, 2009: The movie, Katen no Shiro (Castle of the Fire God 火天の城) is released to theaters nationwide. The movie is about Okabe Mataemon, a Nagoya (Atsuta)-based master carpenter who in 1576 was ordered by Japan’s leading warlord Oda Nobunaga to build Azuchi Castle on Mt. Azuchi fronting Lake Biwa.

Sept. 19-20, 2009: The first Inazuma Rock Fes is held at Karasuma Peninsula by Shiga-native Nishikawa Takanori, a famous musician known as T.M.Revolution.

Oct. 23-25, 2009: The 2nd Yuru-Kyara (Mascot Character) Matsuri is held on Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road in Hikone. Well over 100 PR mascots adorned the road and posed for pictures. On the first day, most of the mascots appeared on stage at the Hikone Bunka Plaza where singer Hashi Yukio sang the Yuru-chara ondo song.

Click here for Shiga History 2010

William Merrell Vories exhibition in Omi-Hachiman

Former Hachiman YMCA, the first building designed by Vories.

Former Hachiman YMCA, the first building designed by Vories.

The William Merrell Vories exhibition is being held in Omi-Hachiman until Nov. 3, 2009. For 1,000 yen, you can enter a few of the Vories-designed buildings in Omi-Hachiman normally closed to the public.

It’s an on-your-own walking tour of Vories buildings starting at Hakuunkan, a Western-style (but not designed by Vories) building across the torii near Hachimanbori. Go inside Hakuunkan and pay 1,000 yen to receive a few tickets to enter the other buildings. You also receive a map of the walking tour. The 2nd floor of the Hakuunkan also has an exhibition on Vories. However, everything is in Japanese. Exhibition hours is 9 am to 4:30 pm (enter by 4 pm). Hakuunkan is an 8-min. bus ride from JR Omi-Hachiman Station’s north exit. Go to bus stop 6 and board the bus going to Chomeiji. You can get off at Shinmachi (新町) or Osugicho (大杉町).

The walking tour map is pretty easy to follow, and the route has arrows pointing the way to the next building. Everything is within walking distance, it should take only a few hours to see everything. The buildings you can enter are the old Hachiman Post Office, Omi Brotherhood Schools’ Hyde Memorial Building which was a former kindergarten run by Vories’ wife Makiko, the former residence of Vories and Makiko, and the former Hachiman YMCA. The former Vories residence’s living room is still full of books and pictures. The house also has a Japanese-style room attached.

The former Hachiman YMCA, now the Andrews Memorial building, was the first building Vories designed. You can also enter this building. There are panel exhibitions in all the buildings you can enter. Other buildings are not open to the public, so you just have to admire them from outside.

I enjoyed the tour and was finally able to enter these buildings. Unfortunately, nothing is in English (which is strange since Vories was from America) and photography inside the buildings is not allowed. This is puzzling because photography is allowed inside all the other Vories buildings in Shiga open to the public. Official Web site:

See more Vories in Omi-Hachiman photos here.

Former Toyosato Elementary School now renovated.

On the same day, I also went to Toyosato to visit the old Toyosato Elementary School which reopened in May 2009 after major renovations. The old  building now looks very impressive with a new coat of white paint. They spent ¥650 million to make the building earthquake resistant as well. The school was built in the 1930s and designed by Vories. If you’re interested in architecture, this is another building I highly recommend visiting.

The old school consists of three buildings. The main building, auditorium, and old library, all open to the public. The main building now has a public library occupying a few former classrooms, offices of the local board of education, a children’s playroom, and an exhibition room. The second floor has two classrooms renovated to look like as they were in the old days. The auditorium is also impressive, as well as the old library which is now used as a local tourist information office and event space. The school is within walking distance from Toyosato Station on the Omi Railway Line. Free admission.

Rabbit and turtle sculpture (Aesops fable) on stairway railing inside old Toyosato Elementary School.

Rabbit and turtle sculpture (Aesop’s fable) on stairway railing inside old Toyosato Elementary School.

See more photos of Toyosato Elementary School here.

Old Toyosato Elementary School reborn

Renovation of the old Toyosato Elementary School (豊郷小学校), housed in a building designed by William Merrell Vories in 1937, has been completed and a ceremony was held on May 30, 2009 to mark its completion.

At a total cost of 650 million yen, the old building was repainted, reinforced against earthquakes, installed with an elevator, and preserved as much as possible.

The three-story building’s first floor has a public library and small play area for infants. The second floor with classrooms is preserved as it was originally. The old library next to the main building will be used a gallery.

During 1999-2002, Toyosato gained national attention when this old elementary school building was going to be torn down by the mayor in opposition to activists who wanted to preserve the building.

See my photos of the renovated school. | Google Map

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